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Song of the White Ibis by Phillip Gwynne and Liz Anelli

Title: Song of the White Ibis

A white ibis against a blue sky sitting on a bin. Song of the White Ibis ny Phillip Gwynne and Liz Anelli

Author: Phillip Gwynne and Liz Anelli

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Penguin/Puffin

Published: 15th June 2022

Format: Hardcover

Pages: $24.99

Price: 32

Synopsis: A beautiful and powerful story for 5+ to challenge the way we view one of our most infamous birds, and ourselves.

Call me Bin Chicken
Call me Tip Turkey
Call me Picnic Pirate…

But… there is a lot more to my song than you might think.
And maybe I’ve got something to teach you too.


Everyone knows the white ibis is the bin chicken, commonly found in cities like Sydney, but there is much more to these birds than that. They’re part of an important ecosystem, and once lived in wetlands and helped farmers with pests, and is the symbol of Thoth, the Egyptian god of wisdom.  The white ibis in this story laments being called a bin chicken, as it tries to prove that it is much more than a pest, and that it is only because of the many changes across our environment that they are forced to be bin chickens, or picnic pirates, or tip turkeys. So what special message does the white ibis have for readers?

Phillip Gwynne and Liz Anelli  have created a beautiful ode to the white ibis, and whilst I love the bin chicken stories filled with humour, this story has a gravitas about the fate of the white ibis and the environment, and what it could mean if we no longer have animals like the ibis to keep things running along. What could happen to the planet. We have to share the land with animals like the white ibis, because they are just as important as everything else in this world. They keep locusts down, and they make sure the farmers don’t have their crops ruined by these pests. This book shows that the ibis is not a pest, even if they are rather odd-looking. Phillip’s words and Liz’s illustrations work very well together to create the story, and encapsulate a sense of wonder about the ibis and hopefully sending the message to help protect it.

The repetition of the chorus –

Call me Bin Chicken
Call me Tip Turkey
Call me Picnic Pirate… –
is repeated throughout as a kind of reminder that we are not getting the name right, that we use these nicknames as a way to distance ourselves from the ibis and not think about the impact that our actions have had on the ibis and its lives. It is a thoughtful book that reminds us of the importance of everyone and the fact that we can all make changes to help the environment, and help the ibis adapt to its new surroundings and respect its presence. And reminds us that we all only have one planet.

It is a special book that takes us on a unique journey and one that hopefully readers of all ages will enjoy and will make us start to think differently about the affectionately named bin chicken and its role in the ecosystem.

2 thoughts on “Song of the White Ibis by Phillip Gwynne and Liz Anelli”

  1. Love your review of The White Ibis Ashleigh. I’m so glad you came to the CBCA (NSW) Central Coast meeting and introduced yourself and your Blog. I’ll be a regular reader.

    Thank you.


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